Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discoveries in neuroscience

09.08.2004


Malaria drug blocks brain conduits, a boon for neuroscience research

Brown University researchers have discovered that mefloquine, an anti-malarial drug, blocks two gap junction proteins, or connexins, in low doses and with very few side effects in the brains of laboratory mice. The work opens an important door: Connexins found in high concentrations in the brain are believed to play a critical role in movement, vision and memory.

To understand how these communication "tunnels" work, scientists must be able to shut them off. Once those tunnels are disabled, researchers can pinpoint the information that connexins pass between nerve cells and determine how that information affects how the body’s development and function.



A technique already exists to study connexins.

Scientists can remove, or "knock out," genes that hold the recipe for connexins, then study the results in mice. But the Brown University scientists who worked on the experiment – Barry Connors, professor of neuroscience, and Scott Cruikshank, research associate – said "knockout mice" aren’t a perfect model. As mice – and humans – grow, they can compensate for missing genes by turning other genes on or off and cooking up other protein recipes. These biochemical changes can make it difficult to recognize connexins’ role.

But mefloquine in adult mice precisely and potently blocks connexins called Cx36 and Cx50. There are about 20 kinds of connexins in the brain and eye, as well in organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. Cx36 is found in the brain; Cx50 is located in the lens. By specifically blocking them, Cruikshank said mefloquine will be a useful tool for electrical synapse study.

"Mefloquine isn’t a magic bullet, but it seems to be better than anything out there," he said. "It’s a lot more selective, so it has real utility for science."

Connors said the discovery, detailed in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of August 2, could shed light on the cause of epilepsy and seizures. Scientists suspect that a Cx36 mutation causes these common neurological conditions, which occur when the messages swapped between synapses get scrambled. Meanwhile, a Cx50 mutation can form cataracts in mice.

"Electrical synapses were only discovered in the neocortex of mammals five years ago," Connors said, "so they are still a mystery. What do they control? How? When? These are big questions in neuroscience and this drug will help us answer some of them."

Conducted with scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research offered up an intriguing secondary finding.

In rare cases, mefloquine can cause anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other psychotic side effects. Doctors have never understood why. Connors and Cruikshank said their research may hold the answer: Connexin shut-down in the brain.

Wendy Lawton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New Technique Maps Elusive Chemical Markers on Proteins
03.07.2015 | Salk Institute for Biological Studies

nachricht New approach to targeted cancer therapy
03.07.2015 | CECAD - Cluster of Excellence at the University of Cologne

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Viaducts with wind turbines, the new renewable energy source

Wind turbines could be installed under some of the biggest bridges on the road network to produce electricity. So it is confirmed by calculations carried out by a European researchers team, that have taken a viaduct in the Canary Islands as a reference. This concept could be applied in heavily built-up territories or natural areas with new constructions limitations.

The Juncal Viaduct, in Gran Canaria, has served as a reference for Spanish and British researchers to verify that the wind blowing between the pillars on this...

Im Focus: X-rays and electrons join forces to map catalytic reactions in real-time

New technique combines electron microscopy and synchrotron X-rays to track chemical reactions under real operating conditions

A new technique pioneered at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory reveals atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real...

Im Focus: Iron: A biological element?

Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and a half billion years ago.

Think of an object made of iron: An I-beam, a car frame, a nail. Now imagine that half of the iron in that object owes its existence to bacteria living two and...

Im Focus: Thousands of Droplets for Diagnostics

Researchers develop new method enabling DNA molecules to be counted in just 30 minutes

A team of scientists including PhD student Friedrich Schuler from the Laboratory of MEMS Applications at the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) of...

Im Focus: Bionic eye clinical trial results show long-term safety, efficacy vision-restoring implant

Patients using Argus II experienced significant improvement in visual function and quality of life

The three-year clinical trial results of the retinal implant popularly known as the "bionic eye," have proven the long-term efficacy, safety and reliability of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine in Leipzig: Last chance to submit abstracts until 2 July

25.06.2015 | Event News

World Conference on Regenerative Medicine: Abstract Submission has been extended to 24 June

16.06.2015 | Event News

MUSE hosting Europe’s largest science communication conference

11.06.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Siemens receives order for offshore wind power plant in Great Britain

03.07.2015 | Press release

'Déjà vu all over again:' Research shows 'mulch fungus' causes turfgrass disease

03.07.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Discovery points to a new path toward a universal flu vaccine

03.07.2015 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>